The playoffs are here! And here’s a round-up of Celtics-related predictions and playoff-themed linkage:
• John Hollinger has the C’s beating the Heat in seven and backs it up with this stat:
It turns out that in the first round, when the home-court team has won the regular-season series, it also has won the playoff series 41 straight times.
The Celtics, of course, are the home-court team here and swept the season series from Miami 3-0.
Hollinger thinks the series is very close on paper (and he’s right), and sums it up thusly:
Sum it all up, and I think the Celtics can survive this one … barely. Much like a year ago in the Chicago-Boston series, it will go down to the wire and probably provide our best first-round series.
• The boys at Yahoo!’s Ball Don’t Lie go unanimously with the C’s, with two of ‘em (Kelly Dwyer and Trey Kerby) seeing the series going the full seven. Here’s the great KD:
So what you have is a Boston team that is slightly better defensively and slightly better offensively, a squad with more potential than Miami, a team that has been extracting every ounce since the season’s first week. I see low-scoring games, physical contests that might not result in many free throws and a whole lot of national TV viewers wishing that this were the series on NBA TV.
• John Schuhmann of NBA.com also has Boston winning in seven:
The Celtics are the better team, but they haven’t played nearly well enough of late to believe they can make this a quick series. Celtics in 7.
• In a bit of a surprise, all 10 of ESPN’s experts pick the C’s to win the series, but all of them envision it going at least six games.
• Also on ESPN.com, J.A. Adande buries the Celtics like the Undertaker used to bury opponents in casket matches:
Call in the crew that handled the old Boston Garden demolition and let them take this roster apart. The painful part is that Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace still have two years remaining on their contracts, worth almost half the salary cap between them. This won’t be enjoyable to watch. Hopefully, there’s as little programming as possible.
Give Adande this: He’s got Cassells. If the C’s do damage in the playoffs, we’re all throwing this paragraph back in his face.
• Over at NBA Fanhouse, Chris Tomasson becomes the latest writer to bring up the 1969 Celtics as a possible good omen for the 2010 Celtics, though, not surprisingly, Tomasson’s story is the best of the bunch so far. This is mostly because he went through the effort of getting John Havlicek and Bailey Howell and Jerry Sloan (!) to talk about the ’69 C’s.
If you’ve missed it, the optimistic Boston fans are looking to the ’69 for hope because that year’s C’s looked old and average in squeaking into the playoffs as the 4th (and, in that era, last) seed in the Eastern Conference with a 48-34 record. Bill Russell averaged a career-low 9.9 points per game and looked to be wilting under the burdens of both age and his dueling player-coach role.
Then the playoffs happened, and the C’s went through the East fairly easily before gutting out brutal seven-game NBA Finals over the favored Lakers.
“Nobody expected us to win,” Hall of Famer John Havlicek, Boston’s leading scorer in 1968-69 with a 21.6 average, said by phone from his West Palm Beach, Fla., home. “But we were old dogs who sort of rose to the occasion.”
“I can see the parallels,” Hall of Famer Bailey Howell, Boston’s second-leading scorer in 1968-69 with a 19.7 average, said by phone from his Starkville, Miss., home. “The regular season certainly favors the teams with young talent. But in the playoffs very seldom do you play back-to-backs, and that benefits experienced teams. You know you don’t have to worry about getting rest in the playoffs because you can rest all summer.”
“They looked like they were dead when they walked on the floor,” said Utah coach Jerry Sloan, a Chicago forward in 1968-69 who sees some similarities between then and now. “You’d watch them warm up and they had knee pads and their arms are falling off and they’re going in laying a layup and it looks like a day’s work. And, as soon as that ball went in the air, you better get ready to play because they’ll kick your rear end.”
I addressed this on Sunday, but I find this exercise relatively meaningless (but, obviously, super interesting and fun in a historical sense). I get that there are superficial—and significant, even—similarities between the ’69 C’s (and the ’95 Rockets, another mediocre regular-season team turned champ) and this version of the C’s. Like the current C’s, those teams relied on aging players, primed themselves for the post-season and leaned on a championship pedigree.
But you can’t bring up those teams without also addressing the differences between their circumstances and those of this team. In brief:
• The Rockets had the best player in the league in his prime;
• The ’69 Celtics had one fewer playoff round to deal with;
• The Rockets revitalized their team with the mid-season Otis Thorpe/Clyde Drexler deal;
• Jerry West suffered an injury in the middle of the ’69 Finals;
• The ’69 Lakers were dysfunctional; Wilt Chamberlain and the head coach, Butch Van Breda Kolff, hated each other, and Wilt asked out of Game 7 in the middle of the 4th quarter when he banged his shin hard on the court. Van Breda Kolff refused to put Wilt back in when Chamberlain indicated later he was ready to play again.
• Sam Jones and Don Nelson made insanely lucky shots that essentially won two games in that series.
I’m not saying the precedent is completely irrelevant. I’m just saying that bringing it up as evidence wouldn’t score you too many points in a debate over the 2010 C’s title chances.